How can I make my garden my own
How to reflect your own individuality in your garden design
As a garden designer, I had not considered how hard this might be for many people until I came to redecorate the inside of my new home. I realised that my lack of knowledge of interior design, the materials and choices available to me, and my lack of confidence in my choices left me a bit like a rabbit in the headlights. I could find lots of things I liked, but had no idea how to bring it together in a way that reflected me – so I was just trying to parrot other people’s ideas and couldn’t decide between them.
I employed a fantastic interior designer (Anouska) who helped me break out of that, and at the same time I realised this is what many of my clients are probably feeling when they come to design their gardens.
What I am always aiming to do for my clients is to ensure the garden looks like their garden not mine, and to bring out their own tastes and aspirations rather than impose my style.
If you’d like to discover more design inspiration check out other projects we have completed
Where on earth to start?!
I thought I would talk here about how I start designing, and how I aim to ensure that any garden I design has a bit of magic that is personal to the clients rather than being my design.
Design around what you love
I think the starting point needs to be to design around what you love. Start by not worrying about what you think you can have, or what you think might work in your garden (you can come back to that!).
Pick out images that make your heart sing
They can be grand landscapes or intimate roof terraces. You can take inspiration from architecture, pick items you like (outdoor furniture? Sculptures? A cool water feature?). Designing a whole garden around a single item is a really good way to do it- if the design doesn’t work when you have noodled around with it for a while you might have to change it (do you really need the topiary elephants?…….) but it helps refine the priorities. Don’t be afraid to start again, or to chuck out something that was your starting point – if the design isn’t working as a whole then something needs to change.
Look for inspiration – Pick the things you love – Refine until it all works together!
My first few gardens were designed this way, and remain some of my favourite designs – the first was designed around a stunning stainless steel water feature designed by the fabulous Simon Percival
Pushing the boat out on a water feature is a pretty safe option- although most internet searches for water features are pretty depressing – the nice ones are very expensive, but as the main feature in your garden a great one (either bespoke or off the shelf) is well worth it.
My favourite garden
My all-time favourite garden design was conceived on the plane on the way back from visiting our favourite tree nurseries in Germany – I was inspired by seeing the most stunning large multistem Corylus contorta specimens in the nursery fields, and was determined to fit them into a show garden.
The idea was to simply place 4 of them in the corners of the garden to enclose the space, and design around them- allowing their shapes and feel to drive the rest of the garden. Their forms were reflected in the shapes of the water feature, and the muted colours of the stone and metalwork.
The image below is of the judges on the garden (while we shivered nervously on the sidelines) before being awarded the much coveted RHS Gold Medal and the Best Summer Garden award…
Our lovely garden was highlighted in this “Best of Hampton Court” page created by the RHS, and this lovely feature by the expert owner of Flowerona
If you start with the practicalities you will end up with a practical garden, but it might not be the inspiring place you could have- start with the frivolities and the things you love and try to fit the practicalities around them.
If you end up having to make some trade-offs then so be it- the whirligig washing line didn’t fit in my garden, although the wall-mounted Brabantia one has solved many such problems. Sheds, bin stores and compost areas all typically need a place, but the garden shouldn’t look as if it is designed around them (even if to some extent it has been!)
Working with what you have or adding a new feature
An existing tree can be a good option to design around if you are lucky enough to have a good one- they almost always are in the ‘wrong’ place- but that can be part of the challenge and the fun.
Revitalising an existing feature can also work- a tree house in an existing tree is a delight, or lifting the canopies of existing trees to reveal their trunks and get light and space into the base can work incredibly well.
Seating areas can be another cool way to define the style of the garden- finding some good examples of firepit zones or seating pods can really help you to imagine being in the space and therefore how you would like it to feel.
Colour as an expression of individuality
Individuality is all about expressing your personal tastes – this can be cool tones, but this will not look unusual unless you are really restrained. If you like colour then some bold shades in a garden are often a wonderful thing- don’t be afraid of it- outside you have a lot of headroom and neutrality in the skies so can afford to be bolder than you can indoors and a pop of orange or red can work wonders!
Using strong colour in the planting, on a wall, or simply in cushions or furniture is a great way to bring some life and difference to your space. I particularly like these ‘string’ chairs as they seem to give the colour without being too blocky. Laura James has some available online. Planting with the same or toning accents then is an easy way to create unity and cohesion.
Memories and stories
Many of us have plants that are gifts from, or in memory of, special people- these are typically the narrative of the garden and should be celebrated as such, unless they are feature trees they rarely define the structure of the garden, but are a key part in its individual feel.
I have a mass of spring bulbs that I planted with my father that always make me smile, and creating these memories with loved ones is so simple- grab a pack of bulbs and force them out in the garden with you for an hour- you will be grateful!
Capturing some of these ideas in your own garden is simple to do, and if you would like some help to explore your ideas further do get in touch with our wonderful design team who will be delighted to help.
If you’d like to discover more check out other projects we have completed or get in touch now and our design team can help you make the next step.